By The Haitian Times
In a pivotal year with more than its share of news, the voices of Haitian-Americans rang out clear and true in every arena across the United States. From healthcare to politics, the arts to business, and many other fields, Haitian-Americans had a hand in every aspect of life in 2020. As the country navigated the novel coronavirus pandemic, a racial reckoning the most dynamic elections seen in generations, countless Haitian-Americans helped set the agendas and movements we experienced.
The Haitian Times has chosen to recognize the top five Haitian-Americans whose work thrust them into the spotlight in 2020 and kept them there throughout the year. Certainly, many more made periodic appearances and, by all indications, continue to make their mark. We have narrowed a handful of those faces most poised to have a significant impact on our communities, our home adopted countries — the entire world.
Whether new or familiar, these faces deserve recognition for not only their stratospheric but also for bringing pride and joy to their compatriots in their pursuit of excellence.
Top Five Haitian-American Newsmakers of 2020
Winner of The Haitian Times 2020 Boukman Award
Naomi Osaka took the sports world by storm, winning major tennis titles in recent years. In 2020, the Japanese-Haitian-American star athlete played her most perfect game by utilizing her platform to advocate for social justice.
Only a few years past her teens, Osaka has shown a level of poise and maturity that evades the grip of many gray-haired adults. She has handled her trio identity unlike anyone else in recent memory. She is beloved in Japan, adored in Haiti admired in the United States
are deeply honored to present Osaka with The Haitian Times’ inaugural Dutty Boukman Award as the Haitian-American Newsmaker of the year.
For more about Osaka, read this article in The Haitian Times.
Well-known in media circles for her commendable journalism prior to 2020, Yamiche Alcindor gained wider prominence as the PBS NewsHour’s White House correspondent. Alcindor’s star rose even higher as broader communities reacted to President Donald Trump’s treatment of her, including the episode where he told her to “Be nice. Don’t be threatening.”
Alcindor stayed in the limelight for her reportage during the election year, frequent guest appearances on MSNBC and NBC and such accomplishments as being named the 2020 Journalist of the Year by the National Association of Black Journalists.
Dr. Yves Duroseau
Haitian-American healthcare workers have been at the forefront of the fight to confront COVID-19 ever since the novel coronavirus began to seep into our lives in early 2020. It’s only fitting then that as the year winds down, Haitian-American physician Dr. Yves Duroseau is among those bringing overdue relief — in the form of two COVID-19 vaccines.
Dr. Duroseau was the first doctor in the U.S. to receive the Pfizer novel coronavirus vaccine, a moment broadcast around the globe on Dec. 14. As head of the emergency medicine department at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan, Dr. Duroseau saw his fair share of lives lost to COVID-19. He took the shot during a live broadcast to help build public trust, especially within the Black community, in the vaccine.
Karine Jean Pierre
In May 2020, Karine Jean-Pierre joined Joe Biden’s successful presidential campaign as a senior adviser. In August, she was added as chief of staff to Biden’s running mate, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. In November, the Biden-Harris transition team named Jean-Pierre principal deputy press secretary for the incoming White House administration.
Throughout the year, Jean-Pierre’s contributions helped build an inclusive, diverse coalition of voters in a year that saw record voter turnout nationwide. She also stayed in the public eye through frequent national and niche media appearances, such as those on Haitian radio to drum up support during the campaign.
Kerby Jean-Raymond, known for founding Pyer Moss, has long wanted his brand to be more about culture than clothing. In 2020, he responded to the COVID-19 crisis by converting his label’s studio into a donation center for N95 masks and latex gloves. In September, he joined Reebok as the new VP of Creative Direction. In this role, he will be an instrumental player in Reebok’s anti-racism initiative, “Product with Purpose.”
Ten Haitian-American Faces to Watch in 2021
Starting in July 2020, veteran political consultant and attorney Karen Andre served as a senior adviser to the Biden presidential campaign. In the role, Andre helped the now president-elect develop a strategy and engage voters in the crucial battleground state of Florida, with its 29 Electoral College votes. Having served as an Obama White House liaison, Andre may again be named to a role as the Biden team continues to fill positions next year.
Joseph “Se Joe” Ducasse
Comic Joseph “” Ducasse has been slowly, consistently building a fan base through his social media channels, his website stand-up appearances. In 2020, Sejoe began reaching new audiences when he landed an Amazon stand-up comedy special, Sejoe: Nou Chaje Pwoblèm. The Brooklyn-born, Haiti-raised “endangered species in America” riffs in Creole, English, French Spanish about his experiences. Given the early positive reception, 2021 may be the year SeJoe’s popularity grows far beyond his original fan base.
Venny Etienne’s designing career reached new heights in late July after Beyoncé wore his Haiti-inspired jacket in her latest musical film, Black is King. The following month he was making headlines again after releasing a ravishing collection of women’s jackets with his own brand, Levenity. Besides Beyoncé, other celebrities like Cardi B, Niecy Nash Michelle Williams have worn Etienne’s garments. Fashion enthusiasts are eagerly waiting to see what will come out of Etienne’s sewing machine in 2021, and which celebrities will sport his creations.
Brooklyn-based actress Odley Jean plays Dominique “Dom” Pierre in Grand Army, the 2020 Netflix teen drama that has won wide acclaim since dropping in the fall. In her first first-ever role on screen, Jean’s character takes viewers through a Haitian-American family’s struggles and brings to life their fears and dreams — often in Creole dialogue. Fans are waiting for Season 2 with bated breath and to see if Jean, 24, will indeed become the breakout star that her potential promises.
Pierre Laguerre, a logistics entrepreneur, made headlines this year as the first Black man to raise more than $1 million on a regulation crowdfunding platform. Fleeting, the company he founded in 2019, offers a digital platform to connect commercial truck drivers with on-demand jobs. With the American Trucking Association predicting a shortage of 100,000 drivers by 2024, Laguerre aims to help close this gap, through his company.
Jean Paul Laurent
Through his nonprofit, Unspoken Smiles Foundation, Jean Paul Laurent has helped more than 7,000 children in eight countries worldwide maintain proper oral health. Laurent’s work has earned him a President Obama Lifetime Achievement Award, among other accolades. In 2020, Laurent became a Tedx organizer. As part of a promotional campaign, Laurent was featured on the packaging of Lay’s flavored potato chips. As his activities on social media indicate, Laurent is poised to make a greater impact in his field in 2021 or beyond.
Garcelle Beauvais, a Hollywood perennial, has surged recently as an author and business owner. In 2020, Beauvais became a cast member of The Real Housewives in Beverly Hills and joined the Emmy Award-winning talk show The Real.
For more about Beauvais, read this article in The Haitian Times.
After serving for six years as Commissioner of New York City’s Department of Finance, Jacques Jiha was appointed in October to serve as the city’s budget director. He will manage an $88 billion budget for a city that has been wracked by the coronavirus pandemic. New York City faces a budget gap of more than $13 billion over the next four years, and Jiha’s decisions will determine funding for city services and more than 300,000 employees.
Read more about Jiha’s appointment in The Haitian Times.
Karl Racine was elected as the first attorney general of the District of Columbia in 2014. Six years later, Racine became the second Black leader of the National Association of Attorneys General. He promptly announced that his signature initiative is to prevent hate crimes. It’s a daunting, yet deeply needed task that will be closely watched as the entire country grapples with the racial reckoning continuing well into 2021.
Hollywood, Florida resident Marie Woodson won her November election bid to represent District 101 in the statehouse. The Port-de-Paix, native and former county government executive joins fellow Haitian-American Dotie Joseph in the legislature. As layoffs continue to impact Haitian-Americans in the service industry, Woodson has pledged to reform Florida’s unemployment system and fund more affordable housing opportunities.